March 5, 2006
Elijah Craig Single Barrel Bourbon
18 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
90 Proof (45% ABV)
Typical Price: About $40 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
We had already developed our opinion of Elijah Craig when we tried his 12 year old Bourbon, so when we drank the 18 year old we expected it to be half again as good. The 18 year old is another single barrel whiskey like the Evan Williams 1996 we tried, but even our first whiff told us it had a very different character. So how did Elijah's older offspring measure up?
The Color: Wait For It...
Yes, like all the other Bourbons we've reviewed thus far, Elijah Craig is brown.
The Nose: Sweet And Nutty
We smelled caramel and nuts, sweet and appealing. Sweet and nutty...that makes it the Rose Nylund of Bourbons. Wait, is that the second Golden Girls joke we've made during Whiskey Week? It might be time to detox.
The Taste: A Hot 18 Year Old
There are quite a few flavors running through this one, vanilla and wood and honey and smoke among them. The honey is the most assertive, matched only by the smoke. In fact, this is an interesting one - it's very smoky, and where there's smoke there's fire. We liked the charred taste, and we also liked the throaty burn we could feel when the rye reared its head. It was viscous and oily, and you can expect the finish to hang around for a while even after you swallow it.
The Recipes: Don't You Dare
Seriously - don't mix this one. It's great straight, so don't bother with even water or ice. Seems like this would be a great Bourbon to go along with a cigar, but we didn't have any stogies around the office.
The Verdict: A Great Drink For Special Occasions
This one's complex and exciting, but it might be a bit much for people who don't drink a lot of Bourbon. It's definitely five-star stuff, but not one you'll want to use to bring someone into the fold. If you're an enthusiast and you haven't tried it yet, however, give it a shot and let us know what you think. We were quite pleased, and it's on our list for special occasions and gifts for bosses.
The Site: Learn more and see more reviews about Elijah Craig Single Barrel at the Bardstown Bourbon Society.
March 4, 2006
Very Special Old Fitzgerald
12 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
90 Proof (45% ABV)
Typical Price: Around $45 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Usually, when something is called special, it puts us in mind of short buses and drool mops. When something is called "very special," it reminds us of chintzy 80s TV - "and tonight, on a very special episode of Golden Girls, Blanche learns the true meaning of friendship when the rest of the girls help her hide her herpes outbreak..." You know, that kind of stuff. When we saw Very Special Old Fitzgerald staring up at us from its squat, ugly little bottle, we were brought to mind of something along both of those lines.
It's a good thing we didn't let that pre-judgement keep us from trying a taste, however, because we would have been missing out on something truly...well...special. And we mean that in the nicest sense of the word.
The Color: Lovely Brown
It's very, special, old and brown.
The Nose: Caramel Apples
The first smell we took in was a delicate whiff of apple blossoms, followed by caramel. All in all it was very delicate, almost floral, with a leathery tinge at the end.
The Taste: Hi, Honey, I'm Home
The first taste was tart, with honey and brown sugar and fruit all very prominent. The fruit was a touch of the apple we smelled, mixed with a citrusy undertone. It smelled like leather and unsmoked tobacco, but It also reminded us of the bigger, older brother of Bernheim's Wheat Whiskey, and were we glad of that. We did a little reading, and we found out that Old Fitzgerald replaces most of the rye in its mix with wheat, so we weren't too far off in that comparison.
With the lessened amount of rye there was very little fire to it, and all in all, it was clean, sweet and perilously tasty. In fact, it was everything we could do not to muscle through a good portion of the bottle in a sitting.
The Recipes: Don't Even Think About It
Drink this one straight, or add one or two drops of cool water - resist the temptation to add ice or mix it.
The Verdict: Very Special, Indeed
This stuff is officially one of our favorite Bourbons. Pour a nice snort of it in a snifter, not a rocks glass, and sit down with your favorite book (or liquor-related website). Hold it up to your nose, swish it around in the glass, take a taste. This is Bourbon that makes you glad you drank all those other brands, because it lets you appreciate how good the one in your glass is.
The Site: Read up on Old Fitz at the Bardstown Bourbon Society.
March 3, 2006
Elijah Craig Bourbon
12 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
94 Proof (47% ABV)
Typical Price: $15 - $20 for 750ml - buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Elijah Craig was a kindly old coot who used to travel the countryside, handing out Bourbon to all the good boys and girls. Actually he wasn't - we made all that up, but we really wish it was true. In fact, he was a Baptist minister from Kentucky who was pivotal in the creation of that sweet, sweet nectar we call bourbon. We recently got our hands on a bottle of the 12 year old small batch that's distilled under his name - does it live up to his legacy?
The Color: Reddish Brown
We like redheads, and Elijah Craig reminds us of one. Or at least his whiskey does.
The Nose: Butterscotch?
We were pleasantly surprised by the sweet smell of butterscotch and honey, but it's not cloyingly sweet - there's the warmth of rye in there too. Pleasantly, there was no alcoholic burn there - it just smelled welcoming.
The Taste: Keep It Complex, Stupid
Usually we like our drinks to be relatively simple. But Elijah Craig 12 Year Old posed us a challenge. There was a strong rye taste, spicy and heated. But then, we also tasted fruit, citrus and berries. And what else, maybe some of that butterscotch we smelled, as well as the woodiness of the oak? Yessir, it's all there. When we breathed in, we could feel the heat rushing into our lungs. Adding water or ice removed some of that heat, but we liked it best straight up.
The Recipes: What You Talking About Willis?
We're sure this stuff would be great in an Old Fashioned or something similar, but we recommend this one straight.
The Verdict: Excelsior!
We were very impressed with Elijah's 12 Year Old offering. Not our typical style, but it grew on us significantly. This is the one we've been turning to lately when it's time to do something a bit different. This one's great to chew on neat as you're sitting by a warm fireplace.
The Site: Learn more from the Bardstown Bourbon Society.
March 2, 2006
Evan Williams Single Barrel 1996
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
86.6 Proof (43.3% ABV)
Barreled on: 5/21/96
Bottled on: 2/06/06
Typical Price: Around $25 for 750ml
We were big fans of 1996. We graduated from college, The Onion moved to the Infernets, and Tupac Shakur faked his death. Another good thing that happened that year was that Evan Williams took a bunch of good Bourbon and put it into some nice oak barrels, and set them aside for a few years. Whereas most Bourbons are mixed from among various barrels, this stuff is all bottled from the same one.
What does that mean? Not much to your average drinker maybe, but it is pretty damn cool to look at the barrel number and vintage of your Bourbon as you sip it. The interesting thing is you won't necessarily get the same barrel or bottling date we did, so every bottle is more or less unique. How you doin', Barrel 144?
The Color: Brown. Seriously? Seriously.
It's a nice, clear and bright brownish color.
The Nose: What Is That Smell?
As we took our first whiff, we couldn't place it. We knew this stuff had been sitting in oak barrels for the last ten or so years. We could pick up on some corn undertones. It was pretty light and not too sharp on the nose, and for some reason it made us think of Sherry. But it didn't really hit us what it reminded us of until we tasted it.
The Flavors: Calling Smokey The Bear
Smoky all the way. We could taste the charred oak from the barrel along with the corn and rye - it was like corn and rye were fist fighting in a forest fire. In the middle there was some astringency, though it never pinched. But the weirdest thing was...we knew this was Bourbon, but we swear on all that was holy, the smokiness at the back end reminded us of our favorite Scotch, Lagavulin. Obviously there's no peat here, but the similarity was impressive.
The Recipes: Not Applicable
You don't mix single malt Scotch, and you don't mix with this. Seriously, this is a sipper - we didn't even put it on the rocks.
The Verdict: Bourbon for Scotch Lovers
This one took a few drinks to grow on us, but once it did we were completely converted. It's complex and challenging, and we really like the idea of it growing up in one barrel. Plus, the vintage and hand-written dates on the label made us feel like we were in a secret club, sipping special whiskey.
The Site: We found some notes about previous Single Barrel vintages, though it hasn't been updated for the 1996, at EvanWilliams.com.
March 1, 2006
Evan Williams 1783
Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
10 Year Old Sour Mash
Typical Price: About $11 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
1783 was a pretty big year, in terms of American history. For one thing, Washington Irving was born. OK, so Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman isn't enough for you? It was also the year the Revolutionary War ended! Is that a big enough deal for you? Of course, good things happen in threes, so the other important event is that Evan Williams started distilling his Bourbon in this prestigious year. We've just tried the Evan Williams 1783 expression and we have to say - we're glad he did.
The Color: Brown!
The Nose: Big and Rich
This one has a very subtle and rich smell, with hints of vanilla and a tiny rye bite. If you ask us, this is what Bourbon should smell like.
The Flavors: Nice and Smooth
Very smooth, and not the slightest bit harsh, sweet as it hits the tongue. When we swished it around our mouths we felt an herbal, almost minty twinge, without much alcohol burn as we swallowed. The finish wasn't too aggressive, and we really liked the balance between the sweetness of the corn and the quick bite of the rye.
The Recipes: Go On and Mix It
This stuff would be great in any whiskey drink you can think of, and for the price, you don't even feel guilty about mixing it. We still liked it best with just a splash of water, though.
The Verdict: Tall, Dark and Handsome
This is the way it should be - top notch Bourbon for a bottom shelf price. We were floored by the fact that an $11 Bourbon could taste this good. We recommend heading out to find a bottle, and keep in mind that you can probably buy three of them for the price you'd pay for another bottle with comparable quality.
The Site: We couldn't find any official info about this product online.
February 28, 2006
Henry Mckenna Single Barrel
10 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey, Bottled in Bond
100 Proof (50% ABV)
Typical Price: About $30 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
This second bottle we're cracking for the Whiskey Week festivities is 10 years old, but that doesn't take any of the aggressiveness out of it. This stuff is definitely on the assertive side, and one of our reviewers said it reminded him of "Maker's Mark in steel-toed boots." Now that's an assessment that makes us want to pour ourselves a glass.
The Color: Brown
This whiskey shows a very clear, light amber color.
The Nose: Sweet and Spicy
We smelled pepper and citrus and caramel when we held the glass to our nose, and we found a light, almost floral tone to the smell. There was no burn when we sniffed it, however, and we didn't get that "just pulled a nose hair" feeling we get from some higher-proof whiskeys when we put our nose to it. Very nice.
The Flavors: A Nice, Big Bite
This one was much smoother up front than we expected, based on the high alcohol content, and we detected a mixed bag of flavors. Once again we detected caramel or sugar, and we liked the complex spiciness and oily texture as the McKenna's coated our tongues. When we swallowed we felt the burn we had expected, but it was pleasant and warming, rather than wince-inducing. We liked it straight, but once we poured it on the rocks we really felt like we'd found our drink. Spicy is the watch word here, but you can reign in the bite a bit with judicious ice cube addition.
The Recipes: Keep It On The Rocks
We didn't mix any drinks, but we thought McKenna's would go well in any specialty whiskey drinks, especially an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Julep, etc. If it ends up being too much, you can put out the fire on this one by dousing it with cola or something too sweet, but before you do, we recommend giving it a try on the rocks.
The Verdict: I'm Spicy!
We were great fans of this stuff, but we like some spice in our drink. You'll probably like Henry McKenna if you like your Bourbon kicked up and aggressive, and it's definitely a must-try for the enthusiast. We found the Maker's Mark analogy to be true up to a point, but Henry McKenna has a flavor all its own.
The Site: Check out the Bardstown Bourbon Society McKenna page for more information and reviews.
February 27, 2006
Evan Williams Black Label
7 Year Old Sour Mash Bourbon Whiskey
Made in Kentucky
86 Proof (43% ABV)
Typical Price: About $10 - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Since we're reviewing our whiskeys in order of age, we'll open up the Whiskey Week proceedings with the Black Label. So what'd we think of this ubiquitous whiskey?
The Color: Brown! Surprised?
Yup, it's brown when you look at it in the bottle, and it's brown when you pour it in a glass. It's Bourbon...what did you expect?
The Nose: Fruit and Leather
As we went nose to glass, we could smell vanilla, spices, and...leather? There's a musky, smoky smell somewhere in that bottle, like a saddle or a big fat belt with a huge buckle. We also detected a citrusy smell, which we attributed to the sour mash.
The Flavors: Drunk straight, it was surprisingly oily on the tongue, followed by hints of pepper and wood. This is a young Bourbon, and it tastes that way - almost too young to drink straight, unless you're up for a fight. When we put it on the rocks, however, it mellowed out a bit and gained some of the sweetness of vanilla. All in all, we can compare this stuff to Jack Daniels, but offering a bit more bitterness on the back of the tongue.
The Recipes: We liked the Black Label in your typical Whiskey drinks - from mixing it with cola to whipping up a Old Fashioned. The Evan Williams drink recipe page offers some other cocktails that might be worth a try, including a Bourbon Margarita and a Bourbon and Cream Martini.
The Verdict: Don't be afraid to check this one out, especially if you're planning to mix cocktails. Compare it to Jack Daniels, and we don't think you'll be disappointed - especially since the Modern Drunkard says we're supposed to boycott Jack Daniels nowadays. [Update: All you Jack enthusiasts can save your angry emails - we're not rallying for a JD ban, we just linked to a story. Jeez...]
The Site: EvanWilliams.com
February 16, 2006
Triple-distilled Premium Silver Tequila
Imported from Mexico (duh)
Alcohol By Volume: 40% (80 proof)
Typical Price: About $40 for 750ml
Historically, we haven't been big tequila drinkers. After a few typical "tequila moments" in college, ranging from blackouts to things much more sinister, we were pretty sure we'd never let the stuff pass our lips again, much less come to enjoy it. So here we are, years later, sitting down to review Don Eduardo Silver.
Our "lick it, slam it, suck it" days are far behind us (at least two Wednesdays ago), and this is tequila isn't meant to be put back that way anyway. So how does Don Eduardo measure up? Pull up a chair, we'll fill your glass, and let you know after the jump.
Continue reading: "Don Eduardo Silver Tequila Review"
February 8, 2006
Coca Leaf Liqueur featuring Caffeine, Ginseng and Guarana
Imported from Holland
Alcohol Content: 30% (60 Proof)
Typical Price: Under $30 - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
We don't drink a lot of liqueurs. Well, that's a lie - we drink a lot of one liqueur in particular (a little drink we like to call Jagermeister...heard of it?). Agwa positions itself as another ass-kicking liqueur, the kind you bring on a bachelor party weekend and get all juiced up on. So of course, when we got our bottle of Agwa, one of our first questions was how it was going to measure up?
Find out after the jump.
Continue reading: "Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur Review"
January 18, 2006
Refillable bladder/sling system for stealthy beer consumption
Typical Price: $49.95 for the full rig plus a "Pleasure Extender" ice pack and cleaning kit. (Buy Now)
Original Coverage: The Beerbelly: Sexy AND Functional
We've been looking even more bloated than usual lately, with a beer belly that would put Homer Simpson to shame. We don't mind, though, because our expanded waistline is due to The Beerbelly. What is the Beerbelly, you might ask? Think Camelbak with beer in it, designed to be worn up front and simulate those extra pounds you usually pack on after the beer's already inside you. Actually, we've been wearing ours to the gym, and you should hear the compliments we receive about the weight we lose every time we go!
The harness is surprisingly comfortable, even when you've got the bladder completely full (it holds 80 oz, or 6+ beers) and it looks very realistic when you put it on, at least from a distance. We're not sure if it would survive a pat down from a suspicious security guard, but luckily the Beerbelly Tips & Tricks page offers some ideas for how to sweet-talk your way out of an uncomfortable situation with someone in a position of authority:
- This is a medical device that I think we’d both prefer not discussing or viewing in public.
- My wife is pregnant and, as part of our maternity class, I have to develop empathy by wearing this thing around in order to look fat and give myself backaches.
- Department of Homeland Security. We’re testing a new stealth form of body armor to protect our undercover agents overseas in the Global War on Terror. Don’t make me shut this place down.
- It’s full of urine, so step back or you’re gonna be sorry.
- Want a beer?
Or, of course, you could go for the sympathy vote and swing your sling around to make it a "Beer Hunchback."
We think the Beerbelly is a cool product, especially if you're someone who balks at the idea of paying nine bucks a beer at a game, twelve bucks a cup of soda at the movies, whatever. The only trade off is the chance that you might be caught muling PBR into the Chronicles of Narnia...oh and you have to be OK with looking like Al Roker in the bad old days. But is it worth paying $49.95 for the kit?
Well, let's think about it scientifically. Let's say you're going to a football game, where beers tend to run somewhere in the neighborhood of $4-$7. If you're paying the average beer price ($5.50) for 80 oz of beer (5 of the 16 oz beers), the amount held in the Beerbelly, you'll pay $27.50 altogether. Plan to do that at more than one game, and suddenly things are getting expensive. If you buy the Beerbelly, you'll pay $49 for the rig, and let's say six bucks for the beer (we're feeling high-end today). That puts your total at about $55. So on a purely fiscal basis, if you plan to use it twice or more, it'll pay for itself.
And even better, going beyond the purely monetary aspect, the thing is just cool. It's comfortable, you always have a beer on you, and yeah you look a bit rotund but you feel like you're putting something over on the people around you. If you're smart about when you fill up your cup, you won't get caught, and since you'll be the only one with beer around at all times, you'll be the most popular guy around, even though you're sporting the Celebrity Fit Club physique.
Learn more about The Beerbelly and buy one of your own at TheBeerbelly.com.